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Cheesy Mashed Potatoes Recipe

This cheesy mashed potatoes recipe is known as aligot is France. They are a speciality of the Auvergne region in the mountainous south central area of France (called le Massif Central). You will sometimes find these potatoes made with great fanfare in French restaurants, but you can easily make them at home and put on your own show.

aligot - peel the potatoes

aligot - the ingredients

aligot - beat in the cheese

Like many traditional French foods, there is a legend to go with these cheesy mashed potatoes. Aligot was supposedly first concocted by three bishops who had met up at the geographical point where their respective dioceses met. When it came time to eat, they prepared a meal with a little bit of what each had brought along: cheese for the first, potatoes for the second and milk for the last.

Although they met more then 1400 years ago, you will still find a cross at the junction of the French departments of Lozère, Aveyron and Cantal that evokes this legendary encounter.

You will need to find the right cheese to get good results with this easy vegetable recipe. The classic aligot calls for Tomme fraiche, preferably one from Auvergne. The term tomme is used to describe a wide variety of cheeses generally made in the French Alps from skim milk. You should be able to find a Tomme de Savoie or even a Cantal cheese which will work fine for this recipe.

I have seen some cooks recommend a quality mild cheddar cheese to make aligot and even a recipe calling for mozzarella, but you'll be stepping into unknown territory if you use these with the cheesy mashed potatoes recipe given here.

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
Aligot

Prep time: 50 min

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream (or use crème fraîche if you can get it)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 8 ounces Tomme cheese, sliced in small strips
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cook the peeled potatoes in boiling water until quite tender (about 20 to 25 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile in a small saucepan warm the cream, butter, and garlic until almost simmering.
  3. Drain the potatoes and either smash them with a potato masher or run them through a stainless steel food mill.
  4. Place a solid pot (ideally a Dutch oven) on low heat and place the potatoes in this. Stir in the warmed cream mixture and a pinch of pepper (you might not need any salt as the cheese will add quite a bit). Using a wooden spoon, begin gradually and vigorously stirring in the cheese bit by bit.
  5. Traditional aligot recipes tell you to form figure eights while you are doing this, but circles work fine as well. If you occasionally pull the spoon up out of the pot, you should see more and more ribboning as the cheese gradually melts.
  6. Continue beating until the potatoes come away from the sides of the pan and you get long smooth ribbons when you lift the spoon through the potatoes. The whole process of incorporating the cheese will take about between 10 and 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Recipe Tips

  • Don't grate the cheese thinking it will incorporate more rapidly. The easy vegetable recipe is quite specific that the cheese needs to be cut in small strips, and I'm not messing with this.
  • Keep the heat on low as you are adding the cheese. The goal is to keep things just warm enough so that the cheese melts but you don't want to be cooking anything here.
  • Be prepared to beat vigorously - this will require a strong arm, but you can skip the upper body machines at the gym the next day.
  • Serve straight away. I suggest you prepare something simple for the rest of the meal. Make your aligot the star and serve it along with something baked in the oven that you can take out at the last minute - roasted pork and vegetables would be perfect.
  • Serving your cheesy mashed potatoes on a warmed plate would be a nice touch.

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